The Amazing Meeting 2014

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JREF Swift Blog
Swift, named for Jonathan Swift, is the JREF's daily blog, featuring content from James Randi, the JREF staff, and other featured authors.

A Week With Joe Nickell PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Christina Stephens   

 

The JREF is proud to have begun a fellowship and learning program with the Center for Inquiry, the first of which is recounted below by Christina Stephens, the first participant in the program. Additional arrangements with other organizations are being explored, as well. Check back at randi.org in the months ahead for more opportunities for similar week-long study in paranormal investigation and skeptical inquiry.

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a week getting to know all of the amazing and talented people at the Center for Inquiry in Buffalo, New York. I spent most of my time with Joe Nickell, working on various skeptical investigation projects and picking his brain for information on the ethics and process of skeptical investigations. I would like to thank Joe Nickell, the James Randi Educational Foundation and the Center For Inquiry for an enlightening and educational experience.

I consider myself an academic researcher. When I do research, it takes this form: Ask a question. Do an extensive literature review. Ask more questions. Make a hypothesis. Write an experimental protocol. Conduct an experiment with many subjects. Report on the results. This type of research is somewhat different from that of Joe Nickell, who, in common with James Randi, is a full time professional paranormal investigator. Rather than attempting to find a mystery, Joe’s detective work is geared toward solving mysteries.

 
Touched! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Penn Bullock   

In the 1980s, Jean Baudrillard, an obtuse but occasionally lucid postmodernist, wrote a book called America in which he noted some eerie goings-on. “This is a culture,” he wrote with alarm, “which sets up specialized institutes so that people’s bodies can come together and touch.” I remembered Baudrillard’s remark as I toured the Touch Research Institute in Miami, with its goal of eradicating strife and sickness globally.

For an organization that intends to save the world through massage, its facilities are small. Headquartered in a building on the University of Miami’s School of Medicine campus, the Institute occupies a single tiny office crammed with mazy grey cubicles. I went there for a tour. Tiffany Field, the head of the Institute, greeted me at the door wearing a lab coat and a warm smile. She looked to be in her 50s, but wouldn’t disclose her age. She had long brown hair down her back, deeply tanned skin, and thick racetracks of eyeliner around her eyes.

The Touch Research Institute was founded in 1992 on the whimsy of the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, Jim Burke. At the time, he sat on the board of 30 other corporations, a feat worthy of titans like JP Morgan and John Rockefeller. But he was no heartless, top-hatted capitalist. In fact, he had a bizarre and heartwarming utopian vision: to “cure the world of war and disease” through touch.

 
Notes from the Highway PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

road1As some of you may know, I'm moving from the idyllic hillsides of Vermont to the fantasy-land of Las Vegas, NV. I'm writing this from a Motel 6 in St. George, Utah: my last way point.

Along the nearly 3,000 mile trek, I've observed a number of interesting and disparate things, and I thought I'd share them with you. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • While GPS are wonderful tools, and I literally never leave home without one, they do not always make the best choices. A mere 20 minutes into my journey, I found myself lost. Yes, I was still in Vermont, and yes, I was only about 10 miles from where I'd lived for the last 7 years, but at one point I had to stop the truck and trailer to laugh. I was on a single track dirt road, near an abandoned covered bridge, and had no idea if I should somehow turn around or keep going the way the GPS said. A lone dairy cow observed this and seemed non-plussed. In the end, I did keep going as the GPS said, but by the time I was done my newly-washed rig was covered with mud, a road-kill skunk was dangling from one of my trailer chains, and I'd spent over an hour going about 7 miles.

 

 
From Simon Singh PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

All: Here’s a note from Simon Singh. Please read, and please do sign the petition at Libelreform.org. Grazie. – BKT

Dear Friends, Rationalists, Bloggers, Journalists, Medics, Skeptics & Scientists:

As you may know, I am currently being sued for libel. My own case is largely irrelevant, because the bigger issue is libel reform so that scientists can discuss ideas openly, fairly and robustly, without fear that they might end up in court. There are currently three ongoing cases involving libel and science/medicine.

This is a very English problem, but it has a chilling effect on debate around the world because English law can have a global jurisdiction. Hence, I am asking for support from around the world.

One way to help achieve libel reform is for 100,000 people to sign the petition for libel reform before the political parties write their manifestos for the upcoming General Election. We already have 29,000 signatures, but we really need 100,000, and we need your help to get there.

If you have not yet signed, then please click here.

To find out why we need to reform English libel law, then please read on.

 

 
How To Give Progressivism a Bad Name In Your Already Not-Very-Progressive Southern State PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

A journalist friend once remarked to me that “fair and balanced” reportage is an impossible ideal because the two terms are at war. To be fair is to tell the truth as best you can. To be balanced is to consult a flat-Earther for a counterpoint every time you write a story about a shuttle launch. This is a fine distinction, and one that I'm guessing the good folks at Atlanta Progressive News failed to grok while attempting to justify the firing of senior staff writer Jonathan Springston because of his unseemly attachment to... objectivity.

 
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